1. This appeal arises out of proceedings to execute a decree for redemption passed by the District Court of Quilon on 30-8-1955. The decree awarded compensation for value of improvements and when the decree-holder sought to obtain delivery on payment of the compensation fixed by the decree and the mortgage money, the judgment-debtor claimed a revaluation of the improvements. Two grounds wereurged in support of that claim. The first one was that in view of the enactment of the Travan-core-Cochin Compensation for Tenants Improvements Act, 1956, he was entitled to value of improvements according to the provisions of that Act notwithstanding the decree settling the value of compensation as per the old customary law in Travancore and the other, that he was entitled to the value of further improvements effected by him subsequent to the date up to which compensation has been adjudged in the decree. The learned District Judge of Quilon before whom the matter came up for decision repelled both the contentions. Hence this appeal.
2. Both the grounds mentioned above were repeated before us in the appeal. We are at one with the learned Judge below that the first ground is absolutely without merit. Section 5 (1) of the Travancore-Cochin Compensation for Tenants Improvements Act, 1956, on which Mr. T. K. Narayana Piliai depended upon in support of his argument on this aspect of the case, has reference only to suits pending on the date of the enactment and to suits instituted thereafter, or rather, to decrees passed after theenactment came into force. Section 5 is titled 'Decree in eviction to be conditional on paymentof compensation' and Sub-section (1) reads :
'In a suit for eviction instituted against a tenant in which the plaintiff succeeds and the defendant establishes a claim for compensation due under Section 4 for improvements, the Court shall ascertain as provided in Sections 7 to 16, the amount of the compensation and shall pass a decree declaring the amount so found due and ordering that on payment by the plaintiff intothe Court of the amount so found due and also the mortgage money or the premium, as the case may be, the defendant shall put the plaintiff into possession of the land with the improvements thereon.'
In our view a mere reading of the Subsection would make it clear that its operation is intended to be prospective and doubts if any would be completely dispelled by the clause 'and shall pass a decree declaring the amount so found due......'. The Sub-section doesnot contemplate the re-opening of a decree which is final and conclusive. Such a decree can be re-opened only by methods sanctioned by law and so far as a decree awarding compensation is concerned, Sub-section (3) of Section 5 (Travancore-Cochin Compensation for Tenants Improvements Act, 1956) enacts when that can be done. That Sub-section is as follows:
'The amount of compensation for improvements made subsequent to the date up to which compensation for improvements had been ad-Judged in the decree and the revaluation of an improvement, for which compensation has been so adjudged, when and in so far as such revaluation may be necessary with reference to the condition of such improvement at the time of eviction as well as any sum of money accruing due to the plaintiff subsequent to the saiddate for rent, or otherwise in respect of thetenancy shall be determined by order of theCourt executing the decree and the decree shall be varied in accordance with such order.''
In his written objections to the decree-holder's application for execution, the appellant did not seek to bring the claim for revaluation of the improvements once valued, within the terms of the Sub-section now quoted. There is no case for the appellant that the condition of the improvements already valued before the decree had changed so as to call for a revaluation. The question of the valuation of subsequent improvements has to be dealt with under the second ground urged in the appeal and in the light of the foregoing discussion it is clear that the first ground has been rightly repelled by learned District Judge.
3. The second ground related to the valuation of improvements that are alleged to have been brought into existence after the date of the valuation made in the suit. That valuation was in 1949 and as mentioned earlier, the decree under execution was passed on 30-8-1955. Sub-section (3) contemplates the award of compensation for improvements made subsequent to the date up to which compensation for improvements has been adjudged in the decree and in objections filed to the execution application the appellant set out that since the Commissioner submitted his report fixing the value of compensation, he had constructed two buildings in item 1 of A schedule to the decree and that in addition, he had planted 25 cocoa-nut trees, 3 cashewnut trees and 4 mango trees.
One of the grounds on which the learned District Judge negatived the claim for valuation of the subsequent improvements is that in order to enable the tenant to claim their value, such improvements should have been effected after the date of the decree. Normally a decree will be deemed to have settled the rights and liabilities of the parties as they stood on the date it bears, but Sub-section (3) contemplates payment of the value for improvements subsequent to the date up to which compensation for improvements has been adjudged in the decree.
Plainly these words do not mean that compensation under this Sub-section can be paid only for improvements made after the date of the decree. A liberal interpretation to exactly similar words occurring in the corresponding provisions of the Cochin Tenancy Act (Section 6 (3) of Act, 2 of 1090) and the Malabar Tenants Improvements Act (Section 6 (3) of Madras Act, 1 of 1900) is seen given respectively in the decisions reported in Subba Vadyar v. Godavari, 3 Cochin LR 75 (A) and Godan Nambudiripad v. Krishnan Nambudiripad, AIR 1926 Mad 680 (B). -
Presumably the legislature was providing for cases where as in this case valuation happened to be made long before the date of the trial Court's decree. The claim made in respect of 'subsequent improvements' cannot therefore be negatived on this ground, particularly when in Travancore area payments used to be seldom made for improvements effected after the date of the institution of the suit. Such improvements have in the past invariably been regard-ed as not to have been made bona fidmand as such even though well-nigh four years had elapsed between the date of the valuation & the passing of the decree, the appellant could not be blamed for not asking for a fresh valuation before the date of the decree. Indeed the objection petition would appear to have been deliberately worded in terms of Sub-section (3).
4. Another ground mentioned by the learned Judge to negative the claim is equally untenable. The learned Judge states in his order that immediately after the 'institution of the suit, the defendant, that is, the appellant, was restrained by an injunction order from effecting any improvements on the property and that improvements, if any, effected in violation of that order cannot and need not be paid for. A reference to the progress diary of the case shows that there was no such injunction order. Further, the law enunciated by the learned Judge is clearly bad.
As indicated earlier under the old customary law in Travancore, even without an order restraining a defendant from making improvements on the property, no payment used to be made for improvements, if any, effected after the date of the institution of the suit, but under the law as enacted in the Travancore-Cochin Compensation for Tenants Improvements Act, 1956 a tenant is entitled to make legitimate improvements up to the date of actual eviction and if he was restrained by an order of the Court from making improvements, he is all the same entitled to the value of improvements effected in contravention thereof, even though he may be liable to the penalties for disobedience of the order of injunction see Ikkoran Pappu v, Moithu, 15 Cochin LR 167 (C).
5. The third and the last ground mentioned to negative the claim was that inasmuch as there was no allegation in the objection petition that the buildings constructed on the property after the date of the prior valuation were dwelling houses or buildings appurtenant thereto or form buildings they cannot be considered to constitute improvements. The question whether a particular building is an improvement or not is a matter to be determined by evidence and claim for value thereof cannot be brushed aside on a priori reasoning. The learned Judge was therefore not right in assuming that the buildings for which the appellant claimed value did not constitute 'improvements' in the sense the term is used in the concerned enactment. Nothing is mentioned by the learned Judge in this context regarding the other improvements namely, the trees, claimed to have been planted after the date of the prior valuation.
6. On the whole, we cannot, therefore, agree with the lower Court's conclusion that the appellant was not entitled to have his 'subsequent improvements' valued and paid for and on. this aspect of the ease, the lower Court's order has to be set aside. The appeal is accordingly allowed to this limited extent and the case is sent back for a valuation of the improvements alleged to have been made after the date of the prior valuation in the suit.
In the circumstances of the case there will be no order for costs.